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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Is In Every Classroom

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

On average, at least one child in every classroom in the country needs help to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) according to reports by the National Institute of Mental Health. But, there is help. A variety of behavior-changing ther apies, educational options and medications are available to help people with ADHD focus their attention, build self-esteem, and function in new ways. The disorder affects as many as 2 million children; two to three times more boys than girls are affected.

"All kids have trouble sitting still and paying attention from time to time. But when attention and behavior problems are extreme, happen often and create havoc at school or home, it could be ADHD," said Donald Manning, Acting Medical Director for the Georgia Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. However, Manning cautions that some behaviors may just be normal growing pains. "Parents should not overact react to behaviors, rather be aware of signs and how to get help."

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ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children who consistently display certain behaviors over a period of time. The most common behaviors fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Because everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, the diagnosis requires that behaviors be demonstrated to a degree that is inappropriate for the person's age. In addition, behaviors generally appear before 7 years of age.

Most importantly, behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person's life including the classroom, on the playground, at home, as well as within community or social settings.

Manning advises that the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD or in the diagnosis of mental disorders. "Child psychiatrists and psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, or behavioral neurologists are those most often trained in differential diagnosis. Clinical social workers may also have training in this area."

Parents can start by talking with the child's pediatrician or their family doctor. Some pediatricians may do the assessment themselves, but often they refer the family to an appropriate mental health specialist they know and trust.